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Community Service Learning


As I went on and on to my friend about the awesome service learning projects that we were doing with high school students throughout the state of Florida, she cut me off. “What exactly is service learning anyway?” 

I had been so accustomed to discussing community service learning (CSL for short) with expert CSL facilitators, I forgot that it wasn’t a term that is naturally understandable. Now of course, I have quoted the National Service Learning Clearinghouse for a definition on my Service Learning page, but I explained it to my friend in layman’ terms. “Service learning is connecting actual community service involvement with skills and content learned in the classroom.”

Those of you who are service learning pros know there is a little more to it than that, but my friend was satisfied with the definition. “Oh, that sounds great!” She said.

Yes, service learning is a great concept, I thought, but it is much more challenging to pull off in the age of standardized testing. Am I right? So I’m asking my CSL pros out there, what were your biggest challenges with service learning? (Please reply below.)



  1. Bonnie Steelman says:

    Community Service Learning (CSL) projects are great tools to use with youth. In all my years working with youth I have seen that they (the youth) get much more than they give. For example, I had a group of youth doing a CSL project for the biggest fund raiser of the year and it was the youths’job to help keep the animals and humans safe. They worked hard, hot and long days, two to be exact. I was worried that they they would never want to do another CSL project. However, when I got on the bus to go home where the youth came to me and said they did not think they were smart enough to do anything like this. They said today was one of the best days of their lives. As of trying to the tears, she states, “when can we do this again”. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The rest of the group was just as happy as she was. For the rest of the year, I work with this group of youth and they can’t be very busy doing CSL projects throughout our community. The other day I ran into one of those youth, he is a senior now. He told me that doing CSL projects had changed his life. He said, “I only thought of himself before helping others and that it gave him such a sense of purpose in life that he will continue to help others and get back to his community wherever that might be.”

    Not all CSL projects go as planned. For instance, I had a group of youth who want to go on a fishing trip. They would call it fish for hunger because what fish would be caught the cooked and given to our local rescue mission. After hours of fishing, we caught nothing. I was devastated because I feel like I let them down. I turned around to look one last time at their sad faces only to notice them walking around the pond picking up any trash a seat on the ground. After they finish that, they walked towards me I asked them what they were doing and they stated that if they couldn’t catch fish to feed the hungry that they can make the park a little bit nicer for the others come after them. What a lesson I learned that day.

    CSL projects are crucial part of positive youth development. It gives you something to do and gives them some to think about besides themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy Johnson says:

    Community Service Learning (CSL) projects can be educational, exciting, entertaining, and exhausting! The projects can stimulate many senses, in the students, facilitators and recipients of the service. I believe one of the most difficult steps in a project is the starting point. Once you have a direction, most of the students are willing to help, but the endless choices of what can and needs to be done to improve a community (local or otherwise) seems to be overwhelming. Also, with larger groups of students, it can be more difficult to find common ground, for example some want to work with dogs and others are afraid of them. But from my experience, with a little guidance students are usually more than willing to participate in service learning projects once you find the common ground.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your insights, Amy! I agree that finding common ground with students is absolutely challenging. Just as you said, giving them that loving guidance is key. It can definitely be exhausting at times. Have you ever felt “it would be a whole lot easier if I just did everything myself”? I know I have. But it really pays off when students learn to do things themselves. They really take charge. So rewarding! Thank you for all that you do!


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